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National and world

January 11, 2013

Savile report: 'Unprecedented' child sex abuse

LONDON — The late entertainer Jimmy Savile committed more than 200 sex crimes over more than half a century, with most victims children and teens assaulted the length and breadth of Britain, from TV studios to hospitals and even a hospice, a police report said Friday.

Detectives said the scale of Savile's sex abuse was "unprecedented in the U.K." They have recorded 214 offenses allegedly committed by Savile between 1995 and 2009, including 34 rapes, on victims aged 8 to 47. In all, 450 people have come forward with information about abuse by the late TV presenter.

The number of Savile's crimes is likely to rise further as more victims' reports are officially recorded, said Detective Superintendent David Gray, the chief investigating police officer.

The catalog of abuse is the fullest accounting yet of the allegations against Savile, a TV and radio personality who died in October 2011 at age 84. Savile's elaborate funeral reflected his career as a popular entertainer and tireless charity worker, but a documentary broadcast late last year pulled the mask away, claiming that he was a serial sex offender who traded on his celebrity to prey on vulnerable children.

"This whole sordid affair has demonstrated the tragic consequences of what happens when vulnerability collides with power," said Commander Peter Spindler, head of the police specialist crime unit.

A report summarizing the three-month police investigation said Savile's victims ranged from a 10-year-old boy who said he was sexually assaulted after he asked for an autograph to children who were groped when they attended tapings of the music show "Top of the Pops," and pupils at a school for troubled girls who were allegedly offered cigarettes and trips in Savile's car in return for sex.

Police said Savile used his celebrity status to "hide in plain sight," winning the trust of institutions and targeting vulnerable individuals unlikely to speak out against him.

The report said Savile committed 50 offenses at medical establishments, including a cancer hospice and several psychiatric hospitals, 14 at schools, and 33 at television or radio stations; 73 percent of his victims were under 18 and 82 percent were female, police said.

"The details provided by victims of his abuse paint the picture of a mainly opportunistic individual who used his celebrity status as a powerful tool to coerce or control them, preying on the vulnerable or star-struck for his sexual gratification," the report said.

Peter Watt of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said Savile was an "evil and manipulative man" who "cunningly built his entire career around gaining access to vulnerable children."

Officials said Savile's abuse might have been brought to light earlier had authorities pursued allegations against him more seriously.

BBC child sex abuse scandal

Spindler said Savile's victims would be disappointed he had not faced justice in his lifetime but could take comfort from authorities' resolve not to let it happen again.

"The victims themselves will get some sense of satisfaction from being heard," he said.

Savile, he said, "groomed a nation" for sex abuse.

A parallel report drawn up by senior prosecutor Alison Levitt and also published Friday faulted officials for not pursuing allegations more vigorously. Levitt's report noted that several women had spoken to police about Savile between 2007 and 2008, but no charges were brought, in part because the women declined to testify in court.

Levitt said police could have tried harder to get them to speak out, noting in particular that the women weren't told that other victims had corroborated their accounts.

"Having spoken to the victims I have been driven to conclude that had the police and prosecutors taken a different approach a prosecution might have been possible," she wrote.

 

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